Trump’s Cruel Cuts to Palestinian Refugee Aid

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I recently listened to an interview with Waco survivor David Thibodeau about the new Paramount TV series and decided to start watching the show. I found it riveting. After binging a few episodes, I began to think about what would have happened if there had been either no survivors or they had been able to be completely silenced publicly. After all, 82 were murdered by the Federal government and only 9 survived the final assault. If there had been no survivors of the final assault, not only would the TV series have sucked, but the government officials would have been able to control the historical narrative more than they already have. This control of the narrative is incredibly powerful when it comes to personal liberty. If the government can control the narrative of how they’ve treated other people, you will fail to approach government power with a healthy level of skepticism and concern. This is why the US decided recently to cut off funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

In last month’s spending bill signed by President Trump there is a section that slashes US aid to Palestinian refugees. The US provided $65 million back in January but won’t send the rest of the $365 million it had indicated it would provide this year to UNRWA. To put this in context, the US is the single largest donor to UNRWA and this aid cut has created “the worst financial crisis in UNRWA’s history,” The US State Department first claimed that they wanted to “see some revisions made in how UNRWA operates…[the aid cuts are] not aimed at punishing anyone.” Before Rex Tillerson was fired as Secretary of State in mid-March he had been working to advance the U.S. State Department‘s position that not all funding of UNRWA should be cut. Opposing Tillerson was U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who had wanted to cut all further funding. But now with Rex Tillerson fired by Trump it looks like people like Nikki Haley have been able to get their way by ending further UNWRA funding in the latest Federal spending bill.

As a libertarian I would argue for our Federal government to completely leave the United Nations and end all foreign aid. After all, it doesn’t make sense to give government aid to the Palestinians while at the same time providing political and economic aid to the government of Israel in their illegal occupation of the Palestinian people. However, the reasoning for the funding cut is very important to understand as a libertarian. The United States was very influential to the creation of UNRWA in 1949 and played a vital role in its early setup. Why would the Trump administration make such a focused and severe cut to this specific part of the UN? The worst cut in its 70-year history? Antiwar.com writer Jason Ditz has provided a few explanations to readers of the website, with one explanation being that Trump wants the Palestinians to accept his declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. David Hearst at Middle East Eye argues for the idea that “Having achieved one victory by getting Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Netanyahu has set his sights on another strategic prize – the end of the refugee issue” While Jason Ditz and David Hearst are well informed on Middle East issues, I believe the true answer to the defunding of UNRWA lies in the ability of Christian pro-Zionist leaders to make US foreign policy bend to their will. Let me first explain my unique insight on this issue.

Lets first go back to 2015, when a coalition of Christian ministries joined together to start the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries (FIRM). FIRM is made up of internationally recognized Christian Zionist leaders who advocate for the unconditional love of the Israeli government amongst Christian “Influencers, and Young Adults & Millennials”. The daughter of the late Reverend Billy Graham, Ann Graham Lotz, states on the website that “I consider it a privilege to support FIRM and it’s vision”. According to Charisma News, “FIRM’s leaders hope the new initiative bolsters future generations’ support of Israel, which is viewed by justice-focused millennial Christians as an aggressor nation that disregards the underdog, the Palestinians.” They teach that Christians who unconditionally bless the “nation” of Israel will be blessed by God and in doing so will “help reverse the erosion of our common Judeo-Christian values”. In practice, these ministries work to defend the Israeli government against any legitimate complaints because it might cause American churchgoers to stop lending their tax dollars, church donations and political support to the government of Israel. In February of 2015, FIRM’s founding conference “The Israel Summit” was hosted by the Loveland Colorado megachurch, Resurrection Fellowship (now called Rez Church). At the ending session of the conference, the Pastor of Los Angeles megachurch, Church on the Way, Jack Hayford stated (starting at minute 52) that “Dealing with the whole, George [Morrison] elaborated this morning, the refugee problem and how that long before, [it] could have been solved but intentionally was not. Not because of Israel’s indifference but because of intentionality on the part of surrounding Muslim nations who wanted to be sure that this excuse for them to be enemies of everything Jewish could be in the eyes of the world, be credible.” Later that year in September, the lead pastor of Rez Church, Jonathan Wiggins, sent out a special edition e-newsletter to church members advocating political action aimed at Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. What was his message? To sign a petition for the defunding of UNRWA.

In his video message included in the e-newsletter Wiggins stated: “5 million refugees…living around Israel… [are] powerful rhetoric, a piece of rhetoric, propaganda that is used against the people of Israel. They talk about Palestinian right of return and they use this idea, these millions of refugees, world interests use this idea to really pummel the government of Israel, to delegitimize the government of Israel and I think ultimately the aim is to unseat Israel from her God given land…we’ve gotten a commitment from Michael Bennet, our Senator that if we get 10,000 signatures he’ll take up this very worthy cause. This is how I want to end. It’s really important to understand that “refugee”, that word, means something different with regard to the Palestinian people than any other people group in the world. And what we are seeking to do is make sure that definitions are the same around the world. This Palestinian definition of “refugee” actually perpetuates and enlarges the problem generation by generation. Rather than helping these people assimilate into their countries of residence and move on with their lives.” Do you see what Jonathan did? He portrayed the Palestinians refugee status as a propaganda tool used towards the goal of unseating Israel from “her God given land”.

Wiggins wasn’t aiming to be malicious with his message but was terribly misinformed. He most likely received the talking points he parroted from the American born Israeli Christian (Michael) Calev Myers. Not only was Myers a speaker at the Israel Summit in 2015 but the now defunct petition Wiggins had referenced was created a few months before by the Israeli organization, Jerusalem Institute for Justice (JIJ). This organization was founded by Myers who was also serving at the time as the CEO of JIJ. At the time Myers was working with churches across the nation to reach out to Senators and Congressional representatives advocating for the defunding of UNRWA. Myers is now currently Chairman of the Anti-BDS Commission of the Israel Association of Bi-National Chambers of Commerce and recent founder of an Anti-BDS organization ARISE (Alliance to Reinforce Israel’s Security and Economy). Myers has worked for at least the last decade to push Israeli government propaganda, even going so far as to file a war crimes complaint at the International Criminal Court against the Supreme Leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, because of Hamas “widespread and systematic use of human shields”  during the 2014 Israeli military campaign into Gaza. The problem is, this accusation of the use of human shields come from the Israeli military and was never verified by an independent source. In fact, as investigative journalist Max Blumenthal points out, he “documented several cases of people in the Gaza Strip being used as human shields during the war. And they were used by Israeli soldiers. In many cases, kidnapped.” The reasoning behind Myers claims that Hamas used human shields is that so many Palestinian civilians died in the 2014 war, only 5 Israeli civilians died and over 1,400 Palestinian civilians died. I mean, shouldn’t the Israeli military be able to drop thirty-two thousand artillery shells in a highly populated area without civilians getting in the way? Myers is a case study of how some Christian Zionists will do whatever it takes to shift opinion of the Israeli government. This is what he was doing with trying to use Christian pastors to shift political pressure towards the defunding of UNRWA.

Why does this all matter? I believe that Calev Myers and Jonathan Wiggins are not just anecdotes but case studies of how American Christian Zionist leaders think. If you are a libertarian but not a Christian it is important to understand that the 1947-1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Israeli militias and terror gangs are not found in any Bible in any pew in America. Christian Zionists try to get around this history by placing blame on the refugees. They do so by pointing out the fact that the Palestinians never accepted the United Nations non-binding resolution 181. The fact that the Palestinians couldn’t legally implement and accept a non-binding resolution if they had wanted to, is not relevant to the narrative. The problem for Christian Zionists is that they are totally unable to change their theology to account for these 5 million Palestinian refugees.  Some Christians have found that it is easier to abandon Zionist theology to correspond with reality. Instead, American Christian Zionist leaders want to change how reality looks to match their theology. Therefore, the United States has decided to defund UNRWA. The Palestinian refugees are living testimony to the crimes of the Israeli militias during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Christian Zionist leaders want to change the historical narrative by making these refugees disappear. Because these leaders have been emboldened during the Trump administration they believe that they will finally be able to re-write history to eliminate conflict with their theological beliefs.

The defunding of UNRWA is a great example to libertarians who care about Palestinian refugees that government is more often used for evil than good. Blaise Pascal said: “We know truth, not only by reason, but also by the heart, and it is from this last that we know first principles; and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to combat them.” As I pointed out earlier in the article from Charisma News, the pro-Zionist organization FIRM believes that Israel “is viewed by justice-focused millennial Christians as an aggressor nation that disregards the underdog, the Palestinians.”  US political leaders want to erase the refugee status of millions of Palestinians because many young Christians are starting to realize that the Israeli and US governments have screwed these people over for decades. No matter the reasoning provided by government apologists, these 5 million people are living testimony that government sucks. I ask my fellow libertarians, Christians or not, to not forget these refugees. We need all the reminders we can as to why government is the greatest perpetrator of evil.

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